I've debated a lot on writing this post... I'm not sharing any details because frankly no one deserves to hear that, but regardless it won't hurt my feelings if anyone decides not to read this. It's strictly a way for me to get the ramblings of a nightmare out of my head.
Exactly one week ago, I was standing on the right hand side of the Route 91 Harvest Festival stage, stuffed like a sardine, less than 20 feet away from Jason Aldean singing on stage. I had been to this festival three years in a row and it was always magical. There's nothing like spending a weekend in one of the best hotels (Mandalay Bay), listening to multiple country artists with 40,000 country music fans, all under the lights of the Las Vegas strip.
Of the 22,000 fans there that night, I'm sure everyone could tell you a different viewpoint, but the underlying facts of it all would be the same. Moments before it happened, I was texting Mario asking him if he wanted me to weave through the crowd to be with him, since he couldn’t get back up to the stage. He convinced me not to. The thing about shows like this is that as the night goes on, the closer you are to the stage, the more you become a literal sardine. Everyone gets more and more excited as bigger headliners make their way out. He had tried to get back through the crowd to me after a bathroom break, but no one would let him. I had argued back and forth with him in text that I would come meet him, but to no avail.
Very soon after, everyone in the crowd heard what we thought was firecrackers. There was a pause, but then the show carried on. Until it happened again. Jason Aldean was rushed off of the stage and everyone in the crowd fell to the ground.
By happenstance, Mario and I asked some friends at the festival if they wanted to hang out that day and I'm so glad we did. I ended up being with two of them when it happened. It was easily the most traumatic moment in my entire life, but I don't know what I would've done without her and him. He acted so quickly in such a terrifying situation and showed a caring and selfless attitude to not only us girls, but also those around us. There were moments where it literally felt like time stood still in those 10 minutes. Like it couldn't possibly be happening. Yet, even while those shots were going off, everyone wanted to help each other in one way or another. It's amazing how in the middle of tragedy, nothing else becomes important anymore, and suddenly everyone around you shows kindness.
Once we made it out - thankfully on the same side as Mario and away from the strip, we made it to safety. That entire night was a whirlwind. It didn't feel real, and it still feels like a dream even a week later. Since being back, I’ve heard a lot tell me that they can’t even imagine what it would’ve been like and I’m so glad that they don’t have to.
I’ve always been the type of person that turns this imaginary knob in my head from feelings to factual until I’m ready to cope or talk. I think a lot of people who don’t know me well enough see me as insensitive from the outside because of that, but it's my way of being able to deal with it. In this case, I needed to see my family, friends, and coworkers without losing it in front of them. Everyone handles things differently and I know that the thousands of people that experienced this tragedy with us have their own ways of coping. We all are designed differently and react differently. If we didn't, we'd be pretty boring.
I said I wouldn't share details and I skipped a huge portion of the after effects, but at the end of the day, that's not what's important. After sitting in the casino of another hotel about 5-6 hours after it happened, the news kept playing the same video reel and it seemed no one truly knew what happened. All they knew was that it was the "deadliest mass shooting in modern US history." My phone was at 4% and I was reading comments on Facebook about people saying there must be multiple shooters, why weren't people staying to help, and how did the people in all of the hotels not hear. We all knew the truth. Dropping to the ground, hearing it, then the pause for reload, then hearing it again. Thinking it was only one person - are they coming from a hotel? Is it from a helicopter? Not knowing where. Seeing everyone helping each other in the midst of it all. Running to safety at a hotel off the strip and seeing firsthand that no one knew what happened except that a lot of people in cowboy boots and flannels were rushing in. Casinos are meant to be loud so that people don't know what's going on in the outside world, of course they didn't hear anything. It was then that I knew I didn't want to listen to the news, read social media or the internet. Why relive it? Why read the thoughts of those who weren't even there?
What I did do was read the outpouring of messages, comments, and texts from ones we've known forever or ones we've known for a short time. We'll forever be thankful for all of the love shown and have felt every single prayer said on our behalf. It gave us a more positive outlook and kept our minds off of the crummy world that we live in where unjust things like that happen. We were shown SO much kindness by family, brothers and sisters, friends, and even strangers - for that, we say a million thank you's.
Despite everything that occurred, I am so glad that everyone we knew wasn’t together because I don’t know that it wouldn’t have turned out differently. I don’t know that we would’ve all been safe had we all been together. In my opinion, one of the best decisions my husband ever made was telling me not to push back through the crowd to find him. If you ask him, I'm sure he won't agree with that, but to me it had the best end result for our family.
It will probably be awhile until I go to another concert, but a very kind stranger reminded me not to live in fear and to push past my new comfort zones. My prayers and thoughts go out to all of those affected by this tragedy, especially those who lost their loved ones. I can't wait until there's a time where things like this don't happen and we all live in a peaceful new world.